Pop quiz: what’s the New Root’s process for acquiring all the amazing, local, organic produce that we’ve gotten all season long?
A: Spell Casting (all it takes is a little bit of magic)!
The answer, truth be told, is a little bit of both. While spell casting has been the easy and quick part (can you tell we’re ready for Halloween?), it’s the forecasting that is the complicated and long process, albeit satisfying.
How does a business define its success? For Facilities Management Services (FMS), a new partner of New Roots and the Fresh Stop Markets, the concept of success is a bit more nuanced than just turning a profit. FMS, “Kentuckiana’s contract cleaning company,” is no ordinary corporation, you see. It is a B Corp Corporation, which means that it is “certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”
Scott Kolom, FMS CEO is the mover and shaker behind this new way of incorporating your business in the Commonwealth, and introduced the B Corp idea to state lawmakers. A bill was passed by the Kentucky General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin this past July, legally recognizing public benefit corporations.
“We went a little further by going after B Lab certification,” Kolom said. “It’s a stamp of approval by an outside certifying organization, which helps with transparency.”
There are more than 2,000 such companies worldwide that are certified by the nonprofit B Lab, including Ben and Jerry’s, Patagonia and Etsy. FMS is one of four in Kentucky. This year, Kolom, not satisfied with just moving his own company in this direction, recently organized the very first Public Benefit Corporation Alliance in the country, made up of for-profit, nonprofits and other interested parties.
So what does social accountability mean? One form of this accountability is seen in how a corporation treats its frontline workers. According to company leaders, “FMS operates from the belief that good, properly trained, and appreciated people lead to happy customers and long-term success.”
Soon after receiving B Corps designation, FMS set out to understand what it means for their people to feel appreciated and what they felt were their most pressing needs. After a survey of their employees showed that access to fresh food and good health were at the top of the list, FMS approached the veggie-obsessed leaders at New Roots for ideas. They agreed on a pilot program to get more fresh, local food into the hands of their hourly workers who relied on a slightly altered version of a Fresh Stop Market.
The food was delivered to the Shawnee Presbyterian Fresh Stop Market on Thursdays, picked up there by FMS, and then displayed the next morning at their beautiful mini-market stand in the lobby. Workers were able to pick up their checks and their shares at the same time. In line with their commitment to employee happiness, FMS committed to paying 80 percent of the cost of a $25 share for every employee who was interested. The $5 is deducted each two-week pay period from the employees checks.
Scott had originally committed to offer the shares to the first 20 families who showed interest. However, after New Roots showed up to do a fabulous cooking demo in the lobby of the FMS, the response was so overwhelming he upped that number to 30.
“The pilot turned out to be extremely popular with our employees,” said FMS’ Jen Hurley. “As the weeks went by, deep discussions amongst the FMS employees about fresh veggies (how did you cook that delicate squash?!) became commonplace and could be heard throughout the headquarters on Portland Avenue, and at the work sites. Lunch boxes were filled with sautéed kale.”
This confirmed to both companies that they had the numbers, passion and interest needed to create a Portland Fresh Stop Market for the 2018 season.
What is New Roots reaction to this new partnership? “We had never seriously considered a close partnership with a for profit company, having relied on nonprofit and church partnerships for so long,” said New Roots’ Director Karyn Moskowitz. “However, working with Scott, Jen and others at FMS has been fun and satisfying. They have stepped up to do everything they’ve planned, providing us 30 families who love the food, leaders who are engaged in the process, and a great, new location for a long-awaited Portland Fresh Stop Market. We’ve also decided to become founding nonprofit members of the Alliance so we can meet more partners like FMS. We are ready to chard ahead in 2018.”
Like minds came together in September when a contingent from the Georgia Farmers’ Market Association (GFMA) visited New Roots for a busy three days to learn about the fight for food justice here and what lessons they could take back to their own state.
Their association doesn’t currently run its own farmers’ markets, having focused its efforts supporting those who do, but hope to open their own Fresh Stop Market this coming spring.
The relationship between the GFMA and New Roots began in April of 2015 when New Root’s Amber Burns and Karyn Moskowitz were invited to speak at the Harvard Law School’s Just Food Conference. “There were not that many other grassroots organizers there, and very few people of color,” remembered Karyn. “We naturally migrated toward Sagdrina Jalal and immediately became friends. Over the past 2 ½ years, we have been stirring up ideas on how we could partner together. We kept in touch, but lack of money, and distance got in our way.”
That changed when Sagdrina, Karyn and JOFEE Fellow and Gendler Grapevine FSM leader Michael Fraade met southern SARE’s director Brennan Washington, who agreed to supply seed money for the partnership. Brennan especially supported the impact a possible Georgia Fresh Stop Market would have on building markets for Georgia’s minority and limited resource farmers.
Executive Director Sagdrina Jalal said the GFMA leaders share the same belief as New Roots, that fresh food is a basic human right.
“When you lead with something that direct, then it opens up the door to work cooperatively, and we can see that,” she said, while visiting the Gendler Grapevine Fresh Stop Market @ the J. “We’re talking about food here, not something that is a luxury item.”
One of the areas the Georgia group liked about New Roots’ approach was the partnerships it had formed with area farmers.
“Hopefully this year we will incorporate something similar, by forecasting and designing a plan that is similar if not mimicking exactly what is going on here,” said Musa Hasan, a farmer and researcher at Emory University.
Jalal said that by working directly with farmers and guaranteeing them that someone is going to buy their products, it gives them more freedom to grow different things instead of “safe” items that always sell.
“This gives them an opportunity to focus on growing and not trying to predict and look into the future,” she said. “I think a lot of farmers play it safe because they know a lot of people are going to eat tomatoes, or peaches, so I would love to demonstrate that if we dedicate this one space and we can guarantee that that this one thing you grow is going to be purchased by us, that just has to provide a whole lot of freedom. I hope to share that with our farmers.”
Having chefs at each of the Fresh Stop Markets also was a big hit with the Georgia contingent.
“Having someone show the shareholders who may not be familiar with all the local vegetables, this is what (a share item) is, this is what you can do with it, this is the benefit of this veggie, and this is the actual farm that this came from, that's the other great thing about New Roots,” Hasan said.
Lois Peterson, a Georgia Farmers’ Market Association board member, said getting to work with New Roots and the Fresh Stop Markets has provided them with an entire model they can plug into their own neighborhoods.
“It’s very much duplicatable at this point because there is a methodology and a system for everything,” she said, “from projecting how much the farmers will grow to, how much is needed for the physical set up, how to set up the food, how to share the information, how to invite the volunteer chefs.”
Karyn, Michael, and Rootbound Farm’s Seamus Allman will travel to Georgia to speak at and participate in the GFMA’s annual conference at the end of November. The hope and dream is that the partnership will result in thriving Fresh Stop Markets in Georgia for the 2018 growing season.
When New Roots Board member Jake Miller met KiZAN Technologies leader Nathan Fornwalt at a Louisville entrepreneur meet up in early 2017, they immediately began brainstorming ways to help one another. Jake was in search of the right company to help New Roots with IT needs and KiZAN was looking to get more involved in the community. It was a match made in the kale field!
KiZAN Technologies is a Louisville-based IT Company, or, as they describe themselves on their website, “a family of information technology Rock Stars.” KiZAN specializes in consulting services for organizations, companies, or any other entities that would like to see the technology they use better catered to their unique needs.
For New Roots, ‘unique needs’ is a phrase that gets tossed around so often that it’s beginning to lose some of its—how do we say—uniqueness. At the New Roots World Headquarters on Portland Avenue, efficient technology is not wanted, but needed. What most folks may not realize is that New Roots runs on Google Drive. From Spreadsheets to Docs, these Google applications have become invaluable. When not using Google Drive, New Roots staff can be found either trying to adjust their website design, or getting lost somewhere in the online ordering system.
Unfortunately, New Roots has grown too large and too different to run on off-the-shelf technology. This is where KiZAN Technologies has begun to help. This is where KiZAN Technologies comes in. Working pro bono during their weekends, KiZAN team members are attacking many of New Roots technology issues.
“I loved the idea of working with New Roots and thought it was a great way to give back to the community, while also getting some delicious, fresh vegetables,” said Justin Tindle, a senior consultant at KiZAN. “We always wanted to do more community service with organizations, but I think we just never found the right opportunity.”
Justin is one of those KiZAN members who has spent his Saturday mornings (at what they call “Hackathons”) laying out the framework for a new and improved online system that streamlines many of the tedious tasks New Roots staff currently deals with.
This new relationship was not one-sided, however. New Roots Administrative Coordinator, Sarah Dugan, who takes the brunt of the technology problems, had a good feeling about KiZAN from the moment she first visited their offices. “When we were on our way to their conference room we couldn’t resist checking on what sorts of snacks they had to offer. Granola and fresh fruit were featured in attractive baskets on the counter.” That would suffice for Sarah, who left that day feeling like New Roots’ and KiZAN’s values were already aligned. “Since then,” Sarah says, KiZAN has “been sucked into ‘the vortex’ of our movement in a meaningful way.”
Board member Scott Drake, Director of Technology at ScholarRx was, with Jake, a co-founder of this project, and has taken the lead for the New Roots' board.
The New Roots, especially Sarah, is excited about the future. “We could streamline communications between all roles at individual markets as well as system-wide. It opens up some really exciting possibilities. I always joke that a Hackathon with them feels like therapy,” Sarah says. “It’s just an amazing feeling when someone examines all the many moving parts of getting veggies into the hands of our shareholders, has the passion for social justice to want to help, AND the skills to make it happen. We are very lucky.” When asked if she loves KiZAN, Sarah responded appropriately, “from my head to-ma-toes!”
Acorn squash, Delicata squash, Butternut squash, and more squash! It can be a bit overwhelming with the enormous numbers of winter squash we have gotten from our amazing farmers this season. You may be asking yourself: How do I eat all this squash before they go bad? What delectable recipes are out there? How do I prepare them safely? How long do they keep? Which ones make the best pies? These answers and all other secrets can be found from a few of our leaders in our fresh food loving communities. Fear not, we have you covered!
Al Mortenson, a dedicated volunteer leader from the Smoketown Fresh Stop Market, gives some insight into his experience with winter squash.
Al: I grew up on a farm in Minnesota where we had a huge garden and grew much of our fruit and vegetable supply, eating it fresh in season, and canning or freezing it for the rest of the year.
We grew at least 100 winter squash each year—acorn and buttercup (not butternut). Buttercup squash is very similar to Kabocha (my favorite). We harvested them in early fall, then stored them outside in a cool (but not freezing) place until about the first of December. At that time, we would bake up the rest of the supply, scoop out the cooked pulp and freeze it in plastic containers.
How do you cook your winter squash?
Al: (On the farm) we just prepared it very simply—cut them in half, scooped out seeds and baked them. Then when it was done, we'd scoop out the pulp and put butter, and a little salt and pepper on it. Once in a while, we would put a little brown sugar or maple syrup on it, too. (Or put the brown sugar or maple syrup on it before baking.) I eat a lot of winter squash and still prepare it that way. I usually bake it in the microwave—anywhere from 8 to 12 minutes per half; time varies depending on size of squash. Once in a while if I am making roasted winter vegetables (sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, etc.), I'll put in some cubed winter squash also. At my home, we eat our vegetables prepared very simply. Our philosophy is that if you have good quality, fresh vegetables, the taste is so good that you don't need to "fancy them up.”
Cybil Flora (pictured above), our Parkland Fresh Stop Market check-in leader, said she grew up only eating pumpkin pie, but as she got older, she was glad she ventured into the world of winter squash.
So how long do squash last?
Cybil: Last year there was an abundance of winter squashes towards the end of Fresh Stop Markets - so I went into winter with four Butternut and five or six Spaghetti Squash. They lasted me most of the winter. I looked up how to store them—cool dry location with plenty of ventilation. I also had roasted a lot of butternut and acorn squash and frozen the flesh for later use. I have already started freezing squash for use during the next winter!
Which squash is your favorite?
Cybil: I think my favorite is the Delicata - if you roast it after tossing it in olive oil then it caramelizes up and you can eat not only the flesh but the skin.
What is the safest way to cut up winter squash?
Cybil: I tend not to peel butternut right away because when you peel it then it’s more difficult to handle and that leads to more injuries. I also dry the squash after washing it before starting to use a knife. I have found that knives and wet hands do not mix well.
What you need:
What’s the difference between all of these Fresh Stop Market winter squashes? (From nytimes.com)
Now get to cooking (or storing!) for the winter season!
Hayrides! Sweet potato fries! Sheep and sheep-herding dogs! Where else can you get all this and more for free? At the New Roots Rootbound Farm Tour.
On Sunday, October 22, for the third year in a row, Fresh Stop Market shareholders are invited to join Rootbound Farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members for a three-hour party and tour. The day begins at 2 and ends at 5 PM.
Gendler Grapevine Chef Liaison and Check in Leader Pami came last year and is still raving about it, “It was exciting to see how everything was grown and to meet like-minded people. It was a beautiful day. I like knowing people who care about the food we eat and how it’s grown and the importance of it all.” Pami continued, “Since I’m not a farmer, I’m totally amazed that anyone can do what they do. It blows my mind. I put my money where my mouth is and live by certain principles. And being able to buy directly from the farmer at affordable prices, you can’t do any better with your money than that. And to know how our Markets help people like Bree and Ben Abell (owners of Rootbound Farm), that’s what is really amazing. So rarely doesn’t anyone get to know where their food comes from. We are so lucky!”
New Roots Uber Farmer Liaison Mary Montgomery is looking forward to passing on her role of sweet potato goddess to Parkland Farmer Liaison Theresa Sistrunk. “We are going to be getting red organic sweet potatoes from WhispRidge Farm in Liberty, Kentucky. We cook them up in a huge turkey fryer and sprinkle them with smoked Hungarian Paprika. YUM! We will also have Ashbourne Farms all grass-finished beef burgers and delicious veggie burgers. So, there will be something for everyone to eat and enjoy.”
Old Louisville Fresh Stop Market new shareholder and gardener Christopher Skye is looking forward to the trip. “This is a great opportunity to meet people who grow food professionally. I grow food ‘unprofessionally (!)’ and I assume real farming is very hard. I look forward to asking them a lot of questions when I get there. This is a great opportunity for us shareholders to have an end of the season celebration.”
New Roots administrative coordinator Sarah Dugan is especially looking forward to the kid’s activities, “With games and rides this should be both fun and educational. My seven-year old son Theo (New Albany Veggie Cheerleader and host) can’t wait to meet the farmers who’ve been growing all this amazing food he’s been enjoying all season.”
The tour is free but there is a $5 (adults) $2 (ages 3-12) and free (ages 2 and under) down payment to reserve your spot. This reservation fee will be returned to you on the tour as Farm Bucks to spend on your choice of fresh, local produce or lamb. Call us at 502-509-6770 before October 18th at the very latest to reserve your spot.